Debra Salonen takes over the Tule Blog!

MontanaHero-300dpiTule is thrilled to have the author of the Big Sky Mavericks series, Debra Salonen, here with us on the release day of Montana HeroLearn more about the research Deb did on a heart-wrenching subject for her latest Maverick story below.

I forget.

Where did I put/leave my keys, purse, glasses, shoes, lipgloss, remote control…etc?

Perhaps because I’ve reached a certain age,  these questions come up more often than I’d like.  It’s only natural to worry when you forget to remember things that should be readily available in your brain. You may ask yourself: Is this a sign of a busy person with too much on her mind or an ominous hint of something bad to come?

I sincerely hope the former because in researching my heroine, Kat Robinson’s backstory for my new release, MONTANA HERO, I learned more about Alzheimer’s than I really wanted to know. Kat watched her mother and grandmother succumb to complications from the disease. Naturally, Kat’s worried that she, too, will fall victim to “Early Onset”–some call it, “Younger Onset”–Alzheimer’s. Like cancer, it’s hard to find somebody who hasn’t been touched by Alzheimer’s in some form or another.

PastedGraphic-1When my grandmother came to live with us, I was a girl of fifteen. Grandma was eighty-nine. That’s not young, of course, but Grandma’s steady decline had been a source of worry for my mother for many years. As families did in those days, Mom and her siblings took turns caring for their mother. When it was our turn to host Grandma Bagby, I was excited by the “romantic” ideal of sitting by her knee as she told me stories of her childhood. Instead, I remember she cried a lot. And when I was able to coax a story or two from her, they were disconnected fragments that floated to the surface of her mind, out of context, usually sad, poignant moments that had remained frozen in her subconscious like miniature icebergs. Two children who drowned in the river, one trying to save the other. Her father–her rock–buried in the ground he’d donated to a town that no longer existed. Baby rattlesnakes–not worms–in a child’s pocket, discovered after he lay dead.

This tiny, hunched back woman evoked both sympathy and terror in my heart. Back then, doctors called her condition “Hardening of the Arteries.” Would I someday wind up like this? I asked my mother.

“If you live long enough,” was her answer.

And, in Mom’s case, she was right. When my amazing mother came to the end of her ninety-five-year old run, she, too, had morphed into a tiny, hunched back crone, still possessing scattered memories of a truly remarkable life, but having lost the ability to share them. Her doctors called her condition “dementia” and “old age.”

My heroine, Kat, is being as proactive as she can be to protect her mind, memories and health. So am I.  The research I did for this book indicates progress is being made in identifying the cause of Alzheimer’s, but until a cure is found, families will continue to watch their loved ones disappear in plain sight.

My friend, the fabulous, bestselling author Sharon Sala, has shared the ongoing saga of her mother’s journey through this dark and mystifying disease on Facebook. No one can describe the raw pain and heartbreak of loss quite like Sharon. But, tell me, have you been touched by this disease in your life or do you know someone who has had to deal with Alzheimer’s cruel reality? I’d love to hear your story.

And, in case you’re wondering, Kat is a fighter, a the-glass-is-half-full sort of optimist, and she has too much to live for to let fear rule her life–especially after she meets my hero, Flynn Bensen.

In my case, I’m banking on reading to keep my mind alert…even if I can’t remember where I left my keys.



  1. I had a dear friend whose mom suffered from this awful disease. Her mom was a minister’s wife. She lived independently for several years, but my friends added a mother in law’s suite for her. Within a few years, they realized what was happening. She was finally moved to a facility that specialized in that care. My friend said that it was like she lost her mom not once, but twice. There was such a change by the end.

  2. My former mother-in-law had the disease. Her daughter tried to care for but she started wandering and ended up in a facility. She had the wits to see how to get out of the unit and escaped one day. They ended up having to make sure she did not follow any one else out of the unit. We lived about 18 hours away so did not get to see her often. She died about 2-3 years ago. Her daughter stated that she got to the point of not recognizing her even though she visited frequently.

  3. I lost my mother 2 weeks before Christmas 2012, after watching her decline for 11 years. Unfortunately we had no choice but to place her in geriatric care early on as we did not have the resources to keep her at home. One of the most heart breaking was having my then 11 year old daughter ask if she would have to face this with me. This was after on of my mother’s late night wandering accompanied by vicious quarreling and accusations from her. At the end, mummy suffered several trans ischemic strokes that left her almost vegetative. Her eventual peaceful passing was a blessing. I pray that a cure will be found soon.

  4. I have a friend who was forced to retire early from teaching because of early on-set Alzheimer. She was in her mid-fifties at the time. Another dear friend who was a college professor and community leader died from Alzheimer that was due to blocked caroidic arteries. (the ones in your neck). That was so sad to see. I really hope a cure is found to help the million of us baby boomers.

    1. Eileen, I just read a similar article in a magazine from my college. A popular and amazing teacher had to retire early after he was diagnosed. So not the retirement he and his family had planned. Very sad.

  5. Although not early onset, both my father and his mother had a form of dementia. My last memory of my grandmother was seeing her in a nursing home wringing what I was told was a breast binder in her hands. It was Mother’s day and she told us to hide her present so the soldiers wouldn’t take it. She had slipped back to her childhood in Russia. She passed away in Dec. 1973 at age 83.

    My Dad’s journey was at first just the minor things like unable to balance his checkbook. Sad as he was a bookkeeper before WWII. The last few months he slipped to where he could sing but not talk…the Pepsi song a favorite. At times he was angry, but other times a sad little boy. He lost his ability to see. however, the day before he died, I was treated to the biggest kiss and hug and the words “you made it”. That was the greatest gift! He had rallied when they told him I was coming home, you see…I was 600 miles away and at 8pm been told he wouldn’t last past midnight. It’s been 5 years and I have that hug/kiss as a wonderful memory.

    I too have that fear when my memory gets a hitch.

  6. Only one of my grandparents was afflicted with Alzheimers, but I now have friends who deal with it every day. It’s an ugly disease.

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